Sunday, January 03, 2016

Gangs of New York

The Wolf of Wall Street - if this isn't an ad for financial regulation, I don't know what is.

In this Martin Scorsese flic based on the memoir of the same name, the wolf consumes EVERYTHING - the three little pigs plus their moms and aunties.

In this film about Wall Street's culture of excess, one has to wonder just how complicit government agencies were in fraud. The depravity in this film is blaring and unmissable. That the SEC couldn't see or had no knowledge of it is hard to believe. If they knew and did nothing, there's complicity. Having said that, before the '29 crash, the 1907 crash, the 1876 crash, there were bubbles. Certainly in those cases also there were people with enough knowledge of the past to know what would happen that time around. And, well, there wouldn't be this movie if there were regulators without powder up their noses.

Scorsese and his team bring lots of experience and know-how to the film and showing the rise and fall of a predatory, duplicitous trading company. Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), a child of Long Island but with a special drive to be rich gets off to a slow start when Black Monday of 1987 hits on his first day as a stock trader. He soon gets back in the game though. He starts off selling penny stocks but has his sights set on bigger targets. He pushes "pump and dump" stocks - with he and fellow execs buying up large numbers of stocks and then promoting the stock. However, his company wants to reach wealthier customers so that they can sell them blue chips. They are soon able to do so and while pushing legit blue chips, they bundle in lots of penny stocks which creates massive profits for Belfort and his fellow executives. As they become wealthier, their appetites for drugs, booze, and women become greater and Belfort's life spins out of control.

Leonardo DiCaprio is hitting on all cylinders in this movie. He got an Oscar nod and knocks it out of the park as a charming, drug-mad, Master of the Universe. Rob Reiner is also fantastic playing against type. Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, and Jonah Hill are excellent in important roles while there are also superb performances in supporting roles from Joanna Lumley, Henry Zebowski, and Kenneth Choi.

Scorsese has created a compelling movie. It is a rollicking ride and really shameful that there is so little regulation. If there were, perhaps we wouldn't have movies this entertaining, but our financial world might be a bit more sane.

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